Venezuela's Maduro rejects call for elections amid mounting pressure

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Here is a roundup of European statements after the United States, Canada and major South American governments recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido, who proclaimed himself acting president in a challenge to Maduro.

Spain, Britain, France, Netherlands and Germany warned on Saturday they will recognise Guaido as interim president unless Maduro calls elections within eight days.

A man carries a sign depicting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, during a demonstration support of Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido, on the Vatican Square in Buenos Aires, Argentina January 23, 2019.

Pompeo drew a hard line during Saturday's Security Council meeting, telling members to support ending Venezuela's "nightmare" and support Guaido. Maduro says Guaido is taking part in a coup directed by U.S. President Donald Trump's hardline policy advisers, who include Cold War veterans John Bolton and Elliott Abrams.

"Interim President Guaido has invited the U.S. mission to remain in Venezuela". And he seeks to stop the crisis in the country with preventive measures and prevent the participation of the United States and their partners in the crisis inside the country.

As the deadline expired, Maduro said he had begun negotiations to set up within 30 days an Interests Section in Caracas to maintain a minimum level of diplomatic contact, similar to the arrangement the USA had with Cuba until their 2015 rapprochement.

"Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Maduro and his mayhem", United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the United Nations Security Council on Saturday, according to Reuters World.

The situation in Venezuela escalated on Tuesday when the opposition-controlled National Assembly declared that Maduro had "usurped" power.

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"The United States always retains the right - always, anywhere in the world in any instance - to protect its national security", he said.

While the council debated, Venezuela's military attache in Washington posted a video saying he had broken with Maduro and now would report to Guaido.

Noting that "maintaining stability and development in Venezuela serves the interests of all relevant parties", Ma said that "we hope all parties can contribute more to Venezuela's stability". They don't want us to get better.

"Any violence and intimidation against USA diplomatic personnel, Venezuela's democratic leader, Juan Guiado, or the National Assembly itself would represent a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response", Bolton tweeted Sunday.

But support for Maduro's rule is weaker among the military's rank and file, whose households are suffering from widespread food shortages and hyperinflation like their civilian counterparts.

Ma Zhaoxu, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, said that China opposes foreign interference in Venezuela's affairs. The uprising was quelled and 25 guardsmen were arrested.

The standoff has plunged troubled Venezuela into a new chapter of political turmoil that rights groups say has already left more than two dozen dead as thousands take to the street demanding that Maduro step down.